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Answering 'What Keywords Should I Use'

Answering “What Keywords Should I Use”

Keywords/keyphrases are the little short snappy words (or phrases) you would expect people to type into a search engine to find your website. But how do you know the right ones? How do you answer the question, ‘what keywords I should use’?

(I’m going to assume you already know that good keywords and SEO tactics mean you’ll appear higher in search rankings etc. If not, read this first).

In this blog, I’ll guide you through how to make a keyword list, where to find the research for them, how to pick the right ones and how to fight the good fight for your website’s SEO.

Definition of ‘Keywords’: 


  1. a word or concept of great significance.
    “homes and jobs are the keywords in the campaign”
  2. a word which acts as the key to a cypher or code.

Also known as ‘a term used in digital marketing to describe a word or a group of words an Internet user uses to perform a search in a search engine or search bar’

Whilst there are a few different search engines out there, I’m going to focus on people using Google for this piece, considering they have a market share of around 85% (followed by Bing on 7% and Yahoo with 2%). 

Start with the Foundations

So, you’ve decided you’re going to tackle this yourself, great, but where do you start figuring out the keywords you should be using on your website? We need to build a great big list of all the keywords you should, could or won’t be using.

Personally, I start with a blank Excel/Google sheet and type all the single words I think are related to my website in one column. Then I start with the 2-word phrases, and 3 and so on. You might find you’re repeating yourself as it goes on e.g ‘marketing’ becomes ‘digital marketing’ becomes ‘help with digital marketing’ and so on… and THAT’S OK, it’s good if anything!

Once you’ve got this nailed, you know the type of keywords words you’re wanting to do further research on. This list is your foundations (sheet) to your house, all the next steps will start adding ONTO this list so keep it handy.

Look in the Mirror

This is probably the most useful section for you, it’s a list of some places you can go to check what you’re ACTUALLY already ranking for. Even if you’ve not properly sorted out your SEO, Google will be picking something up from your website, you just likely won’t be showing up high in the rankings or targeting the exact areas you’d want to.

Other than Google Ads, to get the most out of these sites, you need to pay for them, but they can sometimes offer a free trial or  ‘mini-version’ (e.g 10x keywords).

They’ll guide you through the process but it usually consists of you telling them your URL (e.g, telling it you want to look at your ranked pages/ keywords and hitting enter. It’ll then show you the keyword results you’re currently showing up for, and in some instances, the related ones so you can build on them.

FYI, There are other places you can go and software that’ll help you, but I’m not giving you all the goodies for free- that’ll put me out of a job.

Competitive Research

Next, take a look at your competitors, run their websites through the same software and pick up the words they’re using FOR INSPIRATION (not to steal- I’d never condone that- but they might have a good one or two you’ve forgotten).

Build Some Walls on That House

Using your foundation sheet,  you need to start thinking about the relating keywords- ones similar to what you’ve already captured, but different. It could be as simple as thinking of the plural version or the word e.g ‘laptop bag’ becomes ‘laptop bags’. 

Add those plural versions to your list when thinking ‘what keywords I should use’.

The Short, Sharp and Snappy Toddler

Now I need you to think like a toddler.

When my 2.5-year-old son wants something, he doesn’t politely say “mummy dearest, I desire a banana to fulfil my empty tummy requirements, please” instead I’m greeted with “mummy, banana, now” in short, sharp, snappy words (charming right)! It’s not a case of he can’t say it (he does know the word please), but more a case of laziness or directness to get his point across quickly. 

Your users will be writing in Google the very same way, so you want to use the same style of keywords.

Ignore What I Just Said… Kinda

Now there are some circumstances where this short, sharp, snappy style doesn’t work for you- that’s where longtail keywords come in e.g:

  • High traffic keyword: Bathroom (10,000+ searches a month)
  • Medium traffic keyword: En-suite bathroom (2,000+ searches a month)
  • Low traffic keyword: Blue en-suite bathroom for small spaces (500+ searches a month)
  • Local keywords: Blue en-suite bathroom for small spaces in Bristol (80+ searches a month)

Take another look at the keyword list you’ve got so far and bulk it out, add some more juice to it and make the keywords longer.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Notice the ‘Search Volume’ mentioned in that last example? Yup, when using Google Ads (or other software) take a look at the COMPETITION section for each keyword. Sometimes, you’re better off going for the LOW-LEVEL competition ones.

When you’re a smaller company, you can’t match the spend, effort and time of the big companies targeting the high traffic keyword’ targets, so you’re actually better off putting your efforts in the low traffic, or local keywords which are usually long-tail keywords. 

Yes the search volume might be lower BUT you’re targeting users’ EXACT needs and searches so will have a higher percentage chance of success. 

It’s another step but it means going through the list of keywords you’ve got so far and marketing down how competitive they are.

To Me, To You

Remember the Chuckle Brothers “to me, to you, to me, to you…’ where sometimes they’d get it, sometimes it needed a bit of give one way, or the next, or it’d be exactly right, well the same can apply when you think ‘what keywords I should use’.

There are 3x main types of keyword matching options: 

  • Broad Match
  • Phrase Match
  • Exact Match

The short version of this is that sometimes the search results will show variations of the keywords so it’s worth considering your options when compiling your list of potential keywords.

Going Local

This section is critical to a business with boots on the ground and a physical location. If people can visit you, you need to consider the local versions of your keywords e.g

  • Keyword: Pub
  • Longtail keyword: Pub with large garden for kids
  • Local 1: Pub with large garden for kids near me
  • Local 2: Pub with large garden for kids near Oxfordshire

You could go even further and focus on the specific neighbourhood you’re in, not just the city (tip- it’s worth doing this). 

Local keywords are ones that contain location-specific phrases that generate results related to the same geographic location you search for. These keywords help drive people specifically looking in your area to your business. 

Adding to the Punch

To beef up the reach of your keywords, you’ll finally want to expand the reach. There are 4x ways I suggest you do this:

  1. Type- the type of keyword modifier that focuses on something your offer. e.g if you’re a wedding planner who works a lot at a specific venue, you’d include ‘wedding planner at Marriot Hotel Cambridge’.
  2. Quality- this modifier speak to the character and quality of your business. These include phrases like ‘top’ or ‘best.’ An example key phrase is ‘best wedding planners in Cambridge.’
  3. Occasion- these focus on a specific event, date or season. These include phrases like ‘spring’ ‘birthday,’ or ‘Christmas.’ An example keyword is ‘Christmas wedding planner.’
  4. Special offering- your business is unique and one of kind, so make this uniqueness a part you can be known for. These keywords can include offerings like same-day shipping, all-inclusive, and more. An example is ‘whole-day wedding planner’.

Exit Through The Gift Shop

So, you’ve got a mahoosive list of keywords, you’ll be thinking “you can’t expect me to write about ALL of these surely” and you’d be right.

Let’s go back to the start, the question you asked was ‘what keywords I should use’ so let’s focus on that, the ones you’ll actually use. It’s time to whittle that list down focusing on the important keywords. There are a few things you can do to help this:

  • Knock off the top or medium competitive keywords
  • Focus on just the singular if it applies
  • Look at the highest searched keywords
  • Rule out the keywords you don’t want to target
  • Etc 

You might find you still have a longer-than-expected list but that’s OK, use it as inspiration when building on your website content. No one has said you need to use every single keyword in your list, it can be an inspiration and something you keep coming back to. It’s worth keeping note of the keywords you got rid of, it’ll remind you NOT to use them.

This account of how to help you when you ask ‘what keywords I should use’ doesn’t include all the steps nor how long it’ll take you to do this (tip- about 20x longer than you think), so why not save yourself some time, stress and needing to access the paid versions of software, and just simply hire me to do it for you?

Photo by Josh Olalde on Unsplash